McMinnville officials began interviews for the next city administrator Thursday. Before Bill Brock and Dan Collins took the hot seat, Aldermen Ken Smith and Billy Wood squared off on the legality of considering an individual who does not meet the minimum qualifications listed when the position was posted.
Smith says the city, as well as board members, could be sued if they hire Brock, who does not have a bachelor’s degree.
“I think this could create potential liability by considering someone who doesn’t meet the minimum requirements,” said Smith. “I have known Bill for 50 years. This isn’t anything against him. I believe he has done a fine job for the city. I just can’t, in good conscience, go along with this.”
Wood says he spoke with his attorney about those concerns and he was given an opposing opinion.
“My attorney said the city is well within its rights to waive the minimum requirement if it wants to,” said Wood. “This isn’t like buying a car where you can only consider the bids that meet the minimum qualifications. We can consider any of the applicants who applied.”
Also in attendance were board members Mayor Jimmy Haley, Vice Mayor Ben Newman and Alderman Jimmy Bonner. Officials delayed the first interview by 30 minutes and called in city attorney Tim Pirtle for his determination.
Pirtle sided with Wood in that the board could waive the minimum requirements.
“I believe it’s within the sound discretion of the majority of the board to waive requirements and to weigh qualifications,” said Pirtle. “I think the board, within sound discretion, can take all factors into consideration and make a decision accordingly.”
In the city’s ordinance that created the position of administrator, it states, “Minimum qualifications shall include a college degree, and training or experience in municipal management or business administration.”
MTAS representative Warren Nevad says he interprets the city’s ordinance to mean an individual should have one or the other – a college degree and training, or experience in municipal management.
Smith elected to abstain from Brock’s interview.
“Because I have concerns, I’m not going to participate in Bill’s interview,” Smith said. “I have a differing opinion from an attorney and my own experience in these matters. I just don’t feel comfortable with this.”
Each applicant was asked a list of 25 questions. Among those were:
• What is the role of the city administrator in economic development?
Brock: “I feel like the city hasn’t done enough with economic development. The city administrator has to work hand-in-hand with the recruiter, whomever that person is with the Industrial Development Board. You don’t have to know everything that’s going on, but you have to be there, you have to be involved, you have to get them the information they need. Not only industrial recruiting, we need to look at retail recruiting also.”
Collins: “I’ve been real active in that everywhere I’ve been city manager. I think the city’s manager needs to be involved in economic development. I was the vice chairman in Martinsville for one of the largest economic development councils in the state of Virginia. The budget there was $4.5 million a year. That’s a huge budget, but they were committed to doing it.”
• What steps will you take to help the city work closer with neighboring cities and the county?
Brock: “When it comes to government, I do not see any lines. If Morrison needed something that we have, equipment of some type, I would be willing to share that with them. Now, I would go to the mayor and ask if that would be OK.”
Collins: “The outreach portion is very important in the first few weeks and months. I need to make sure I visit with them and set up a regular time to meet with them. I need to find out what they are interested in and share what we are interested in. I’ve participated in the creation of at least four regional groups were we encouraged cities and counties to work together.”
• What valuable skills can you bring to the table the other candidates cannot bring to this position?
Brock: “I know this town and I do not have a learning curve. It takes a while to get acclimated to the surroundings. Anyone can come into this office and take off but can they walk out the front door and be able to talk to people like I can? I know who to go see in order to get things done. I can do that tomorrow. There is no learning curve for that with me.
Collins: “I have almost 30 years experience as a city manager and city administrator. I have huge experience in utilities and rate analysis. Utilities being water, sewer, gas and electric. I’ve done rate analysis on all those to help establish fair and equitable rates. I’m good with capital improvement plans. I’ve implemented those in at least four or five cities. I pride myself on being a team builder. Everywhere I’ve managed, I’ve held at least two team building retreats — one with the staff and one with the board.”
• Assume you were in the position of hiring a candidate for this position, what specific qualifications would you be looking for in that individual?
Brock: “I was on the board when we were looking for the first city administrator. I’ve been there. I was sitting in your seat for the first administrator hired and we looked for somebody that was honest, straightforward, someone who wanted to get things done, someone knowledgeable, but firm. You have got to be firm. It can’t be a good old boy. That just doesn’t work in this job.”
Collins: “I would want someone who is honest. That’s number one. Someone who has integrity. Someone who is professional. Someone who has a thorough knowledge of cities and how they operate. And, someone who is good with building a team at staff level.”
• Name three abilities you possess that your peers say you do well and relate them to this position?
Brock: “I’m a rule follower. I will follow the rules that the board lays down. They are important. I’m straightforward. I will tell you exactly what I think. I won’t say it in a hateful attitude. I’m just straightforward. And, I can get things done.”
Collins: “I think mentoring employees and department heads is generally one I hear a lot. Budget management, I’m usually part of the finance committee when I’m involved with regional groups so they recognize that about me. And, again, they recognize that I’m honest and fair. I will tell you the truth, even if it hurts.”
Board members were given sheets to score each applicant’s response to the questions as “poor,” “average,” “good,” and “excellent” and make notes. No discussion was held and no determination made.